"I've had way worse starts than this," Kennedy said. "It's just a matter of coming back and getting your work done throughout the week and just trying to put this behind you. I've put it behind me now. It's a bad game and throw it away."
Struggles are a somewhat new occurrence for Kennedy, who posted a 1.89 ERA in three big league starts last season and jumped all the way to New York from Class A ball. It was only the second time in 30 professional starts that Kennedy allowed more than three earned runs in a start, having allowed four to the Binghamton Mets in his Double-A debut last June.
But to recall a game in which he had so much trouble, Kennedy had to turn the books all the way back to Hawaii Winter Baseball, when he said he was hit for an eight-spot in a 1 2/3-inning start. On the optimistic side, he proudly claimed that he two-hit that same club the next time around the rotation.
Hawaii is a long way away from the Bronx, but in that sense, Kennedy made it seem relative. The right-hander allowed four hits, walking four -- a new career high -- and striking out two. The big hit was Riggans' booming one-out double to the gap in right-center field, coming as Kennedy challenged the pinch-hitter after falling behind into a 3-1 count.
"Good thing it's early," said Yankees catcher Jose Molina. "I know he's going to bounce back from that one."
Down by six runs, the Yankees closed the gap to two with four runs in the third inning off Rays starter Andy Sonnanstine. Hideki Matsui knocked a solo homer, his first, off the right-field foul pole, and Derek Jeter drilled a ball off the center-field wall for a run-scoring triple. Jason Giambi added a run-scoring double to deep left-center in the frame.
Yet the comeback was short-lived. After that third-inning blip, Sonnanstine set down the Yankees with efficiency. Following Giambi's double, Sonnanstine retired the final 10 batters he faced before turning the pitching over to Dan Wheeler, who set the Yankees down on just four pitches in the seventh. Trever Miller and Scott Dohmann also kept the Yankees out of the hit column, limiting them to just Johnny Damon's eighth-inning walk after that point.
"[Sonnanstine] did a nice job of keeping his composure and his poise," Thomson said. "I thought we laid out some pretty good at-bats in the third, and I thought we were coming and had some momentum. He regrouped and did a nice job. Hats off to him."
After Kennedy's early exit, the Yankees turned the pitching over to their long-relief tandem of Jonathan Albaladejo and Ross Ohlendorf, who were largely effective. Making his Yankees debut, Albaladejo -- acquired from the Nationals over the offseason for rookie Tyler Clippard -- kept the Yankees in the game by hurling 2 2/3 innings of one-hit ball, striking out four.
"It feels good to do it more here in Yankee Stadium," Albaladejo said. "Everybody's got a little pressure the first time, but I'm happy everything went well. I'll try to do it again."
Lefty Billy Traber hurled a scoreless seventh, but that was where the effectiveness ended abruptly. LaTroy Hawkins gave up six runs in the eighth, and Kyle Farnsworth served up an upper-deck homer to Pena, giving Tampa Bay a nice cushion.
"You've just got to turn the page and get ready for tomorrow," Hawkins said. "We had done a great job keeping the team in the game. I just came in and let it get away."
Thomson, the first-year bench coach, made his big league managerial debut, having previously managed Class A ball in 1995 with the Oneonta Yankees. The loss, however, goes to Girardi because Thomson was acting manager.
Later, sitting in Girardi's office chair and at a desk strewn with throat lozenges, Thomson said he expected his stint at the helm to last just one evening.
"He took off right after the game, but he stayed for the game, and I think he'll be all right for [Saturday]," Thomson said of Girardi. "I talked with him a little bit a couple of times, but we were pretty much on the same page on my thoughts."